Keeping your sensitive information protected is more difficult than ever. That's because criminals are constantly coming up with elaborate schemes to rip us off.
Now, there's a tricky phone scam making the rounds that you really need to watch out for. Your financial life depends on it!
Don't fall for this elaborate phone scam
We're talking about an elaborate phone scam that seems to be going viral. I actually know someone who recently fell victim to this racket.
Here's how the scam went down. The victim received a call at her place of business claiming that her Social Security number had been stolen. The caller said he was a representative of a law firm and was on his way to deliver a subpoena.
Supposedly, the criminal used the victim's Social Security number to take out a payday loan in her name. Since no repayments had been made, the loan company filed a lawsuit against her.
The alleged rep said he needed to verify some information if she wanted to resolve the issue. He already knew her business phone number and address, however, the home address he quoted her was wrong. He also wanted her to confirm her Social Security number.
Hopefully, you're catching onto what's happening here. Yep, you guessed it, the "rep" was a fraud.
The victim made the critical mistake of giving the fraudster her actual home address and Social Security number. She felt uncomfortable about the situation, unfortunately, this was after the fact, and contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB informed her that the number she received the call from was listed as fraudulent. Yikes!
This type of scam could happen to anyone. You really need to watch out for schemes like this, especially now, following the data breach at Equifax that has impacted an estimated 143 million people in the U.S.
Criminals will be ramping up scams associated with exposed Social Security numbers. You might find phishing emails in your inbox or receive scam phone calls piggybacking on the massive breach. It's important that you're prepared for everything.
How to handle scam phone calls
Safeguard your Social Security number - Your Social Security number is the only one that you will ever have. It's not like a password that you can change when it gets exposed. Never give out this critical data to anyone from an unsolicited phone call, email or text message.
Don't answer calls from unknown numbers - This is the most obvious and simplest precaution. Let unknown calls go to voicemail. If you do answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify and target live respondents.
Keep an eye on your credit reports - You should already be frequently checking your bank statements and credit reports, looking for suspicious activity. It's even more critical when a massive data breach occurs like the one at Equifax. Scammers could be opening bank accounts with your stolen Social Security number and crashing your credit score. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately.
Don’t give out bank account information to anyone you don’t know - Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
File a complaint - In the aftermath of the Equifax data breach, scammers are bound to be out in force. They will be trying to trick people with phishing emails and scam phone calls. If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC so it can help identify and take appropriate action to help consumers targeted by illegal callers.
Register your phone number - Phone scams are nothing new, they've been happening for decades. Whether you're receiving tons of telemarketing calls or potentially malicious robocalls, you should consider registering all of your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. Even though stopping every unwanted call is nearly impossible, the Do Not Call Registry is a great resource to scale them back to the bare minimum.
Watch for phishing scams - It's important that you know how to recognize a phishing email so you don't fall victim to one. Typically there are signs to watch for. Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.